Kaua‘i’s newest farmers union is nation’s oldest

LIHU‘E — The oldest agricultural organization in the United States has arrived on Kaua‘i.

The National Farmers Union was founded in 1902 to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers and rural communities, according to its mission statement.

In a state where most land is zoned agricultural or conservation, the Hawai‘i Farmers Union was not formed until June 2008. More than a year later, the organization reached Kaua‘i.

The Kauai‘i Farmers Union may be young, but is steadily growing on the island. HFU Treasurer Patti Valentine said the Kauai‘i chapter — for which she serves as liaison — already has 93 members. Half of them are farmers and the other half are friends of farmers.

“We encourage people who support farmers to join us too,” she said.

Valentine said HFU is a state organization which is mainly an advocate for small farmers, but large farmers can also join.

“We define members as a natural person,” said Valentine, adding that corporations can join at a higher fee but have no voting power.

HFU promotes prosperous agricultural communities through cooperation, legislation and education, the three basic frameworks of the NFU, Valentine said.

“That’s how they like to do everything, help set up cooperatives, help teach people how to do new and better farming methods, and show up in legislation,” said Valentine.

Heroes of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Some 14 Hawaii Island farmers, ranchers, food purveyors and ag entrepreneurs were among the “Heroes of Agriculture, Food and Environment” honored at the Hawaii Agriculture Conference held Sept. 23-24 at Ko’Olina, Oahu.

Ag conference organizers began polling the agriculture community in August, seeking nominations in seven categories. A review team then selects the winners based on the write-ups submitted.

“We were looking for the behind-the-scene heroes, the humble leaders,” said Kim Coffee-Isaak, executive director of the Agricultural Leadership Foundation of Hawaii.

The 2010 Heroes of Agriculture, Food and the Environment are: